Sunday, September 23, 2007

The call of the semi-wild

My wife Kara and I are camping posers. We talk a good game, but when it comes right down to it, we spend less time in the woods than your average rhinestone-collared Chihuahua. The problem is that we have a bed with our very own toilet nearby. When you have a sweet arrangement like that, you sometimes lose track of how much you enjoy strapping a flashlight to your head and sleeping on roots.

When our buddy Jeff invited us to go camping at a local state park with some of his friends from college last weekend, we realized just how long it had been since we’d shaken the dust off of the tent, which, in all seriousness, is not a euphemism.

So we scrounged around the basement to find all our old camping stuff and rediscovered that we actually still qualify as bona fide campers, if only on the basis of the sheer quantity of Nalgene bottles that we own. The ubiquitous and bulletproof Nalgene water bottle can actually be run over with a car and remain unscathed, which gives campers the peace of mind that they could be identified by their Nalgene bottles if their dental records don’t work out. When you go camping, each Nalgene bottle you bring is a member of your entourage. The bigger the entourage you command, the more respect you get in the “club,” where the “club” is the area around the outdoor sink in which you wash the marshmallow off your face.

You might not know this if you’ve never experienced it for yourself, but camping in a state park on a Saturday night near a major metropolitan area is every bit as relaxing and serene as pitching a tent, crawling into your sleeping bag and curling up to sleep on the shoulder of I-95. Every campsite was filled with drunken partiers, screaming children or some combination thereof. Medium-sized carnivals have traveled with fewer tents than most of those families. At night, as the tiki torches came out, the chatter echoed off the tress and the fires blazed in all directions, it felt as though we’d wandered into an Ewok village on the eve of some great festival.

Of course, none of that really matters when you’re concentrating on making the perfect s’more. Kara takes great pride in her marshmallow craftsmanship. If she ever hosted “30 Minute Meals,” her episode on cooking s’mores would end with a “to be continued…” Really, I think people who spend that much time cooking their marshmallows are just looking for a socially acceptable way to manifest their exhibitionist tendencies.

“Oooh, look at this one, all perfect and golden-brown” they say, waving their marshmallows around for the whole world to see.

I just don’t have that kind of patience. I prefer to employ the “sugary ball of fire” method to cooking marshmallows. It’s more of a S’mores Foster approach. In the seconds before I scarf them down, you could use my flaming marshmallows to spelunk or, should the opportunity arise, weld bridge joints.

Going camping again also afforded us the opportunity to bust out our trusty old Therm-a-Rest inflatable camping mattresses. I’ve had the same pair of orange Therm-a-Rests since I was twelve, and they have seen tougher duty than most pro wrestlers’ underpants. They’ve never even needed a patch. After the apocalypse, all that will be left in the world are Therm-a-Rests, cockroaches and Dick Cheney. You know, because he was expecting it.

Despite the multi-lingual fight that broke out inches from our tent at two in the morning, the night’s rest was actually quite pleasant, thanks in no small part to the dedication of the park staff in leaving the “No Alcohol” policy completely unenforced. Sometimes, the only way to sleep through all-night whiskey-soaked hollering is to wear your own Miller Lite earmuffs.

It was good to get out in the woods again, even if we didn’t exactly commune with nature. And say what you will about state parks, but the bathrooms are always freshly stocked. At no point in the weekend did we even come close to running out of daddy longlegs.

You can smoosh Mike Todd between some graham crackers at


  1. I used to go camping every summer with the kids. The only requirement was that the camp had showers (and a modern bathroom).

    It was always lots of fun unless it rained. No matter what we did to prevent it, our sleeping bags always would get wet.

    Worst memory: one year I went with my sister and a couple nieces and nephews. Stayed at a Yogi Bear themed camp. Some people lived there all year in trailers. One (across the path) had a bug zapper that pumped out about 140 decibels ever time a bug passed near it. He kept it on most of the night. Early the next morning, he got out his loud riding mower and spent an hour mowing his 20 foot by 50 foot lot. I hated that guy.


    Special day. When I heard of it, I immediately thought of you.

  2. Buster, I just found out that the dude who lived in our old place before us had a riding mower. The lot was .21 acres and took 20 minutes to do with a push mower. I guess he moved to the Yogi place permanently.

    And Happy, Punctuation: Day!!! Do they update that page every day to say Punctuation Day is today? Guess I'll find out tomorrow.

  3. I wouldn't go camping if I were paid to do it. There are BUGS out there! And believe it or not, a fat behind doesn't REALLY cushion you on the hard ground.

    When I was a kid, we camped the LOGICAL way. In a camper. It was damp and musty and had no running water. There were NEVER any hot guys there. I DID get propositioned by a married guy once. Oh to be 16 again, and know what I know now.

    Why is it all the daddy longlegs live in showerhouses? Maybe they were camping too...

  4. I hate how people think camping in a camp ground at a "state Park" is camping. Come around here. We drive for hours on a back dirt road, keep going cuz you will get stuck and die if you try to turn around. Find a small clearing, and set up your tent and porta potty. You can shit out in the open, cuz there will be nobody for miles to see you. hehehehe

    Now that is camping.

    Oh I do the flaming ball of fire for my marshmellows too. Cuz that way I can eat a whole bag before Gigantor gets that one "nice and golden brown" Yeah...that's the way I roll, flaming sugary confections..

  5. Melodyann -- Your camper sounds like my first apartment.

    Burf -- Dude, you are hard core. Now we know what a Burf does in the woods.

  6. You nailed the State Park description. My husband and I set off with no destination for our honeymoon (yeah, don't ever do that). We decided to camp and went to a state park. When I started crying, my husband drove over several campers and through 3 clotheslines to get us away from there. We ended up finding a different place a few miles away, right by the river and all to ourselves; complete bliss. That chaos of state parks has nothing to do with camping.

  7. Dude,

    You totally suckered your more impetuous readers.

    On the basis of the first half of the column, I went out and bought a whole collection of Nalgene's preparation for the Apocalypse.

    And then when I return to read the rest of the column, I find out that it's only Therma-a-Rests, roaches and VP's that will be of utility come the end.

    You should watch out or someone may pin you as a Nalgene shill.